Poole-Santander (LD Lines)

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines Poole-Santander June 2014

Posted 08 June 2014

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines Poole-Santander May 2014

Posted 01 June 2014

This survey was cancelled for technical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines ‘Norman Asturias’ Poole-Santander survey 26-28 April, 2014

Posted 07 May 2014

Peter Jones and Carol Greig, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Day 1: Sea state 4-5, with significant swell
Day 2: Wind force 6-9 from west; sea state 6, later dropping to 4 with high swell
Day 3: Wind force 8 from northwest, later dropping to 4; sea state 3, eventually dropping to 1

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 156
Dolphin sp.  1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 37
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 33
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 318
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2   (probable)
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 9
Common tern Sterna hirundo 1
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 69
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 11
Petrel sp.   5
Auk sp.   6
Tern sp.  3

Terrestrial Birds
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 18

Great Skua Peter Howlett 01

We arrived at Poole and were speedily escorted through the port and onto the ship by the friendly security staff, and LD Lines staff who were keen to hear more about the work that MARINElife volunteers do.

On departing Poole, we checked Brownsea Island lagoon which had a good number of Sandwich Tern and a few Black-tailed Godwit. Once out into the English Channel, we headed for the bridge and were able to survey for just over two hours before dusk. Highlights of this leg of the survey were three Manx Shearwater close to the ship, plus Fulmar, Guillemot and Great Skua.

Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)


Manx Shearwater Cliff Morrison 01Day 2 was to be dominated by seabird sightings. During the initial hour birds seen were mainly Gannet, plus a few Fulmar, Kittiwake, and a Manx Shearwater. As we headed south through Biscay, a flock of 18 Whimbrel sped by on migration, and a noticeable trickle of Lesser Black-backed Gull were recorded. We also saw a small number of petrels, most remained unidentifiable due to their tiny size but we managed to confirm one as a Storm Petrel. Two of the others may have been Leach's Storm Petrel. A Puffin and a Sooty Shearwater added more variety to the day's list before the number of birds markedly decreased. Despite the choppy seas we were fortunate to see three small groups of dolphins. Two of the groups were Common Dolphin, the third went unidentified. The ship arrived, and departed Santander in darkness.

Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Cliff Morrison)

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 13

Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We awoke on day 3 to much calmer sea conditions as we headed north through the Bay of Biscay. In contrast to the previous day, this morning was to be dominated by cetaceans. We recorded over 100 Common Dolphin before seeing a single bird. These proved to be the final cetaceans of the trip though, and the rest of the day was notable only for three tight flocks of Arctic Tern totalling 69 birds. These were initially seen on the sea, before taking off and heading north. Other highlights were 26 Manx Shearwater, plus steady numbers of Gannet, Fulmar, and the occasional Kittiwake and Great Skua.

After some much needed sleep, we arrived at Poole in the early hours. After thanking the ship's crew for their fantastic hospitality and assistance throughout, we headed ashore.

Peter Jones and Carol Greig, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines 'Norman Asturias' Poole-Santander 29-31 March 2014

Posted 07 April 2014

Stephen Dunstan and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Westbound: Variable light winds force 1-3

Summary of sightings:

Cuvier's Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris 10
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melas 24
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 146
Striped Dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba 20
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 4
Unidentified dolphin sp 2

Duck sp 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 308
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 41
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 24
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 77
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Larus sp 609
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 8
Auk sp 12

Passerines seen at sea
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1

The surveying team coincidentally arrived at the port freight entrance having come from Blackpool and Brighton. Things continued to go like clockwork from there, as we were directed to the ship and were on board in plenty of time. We were able to check into our respective cabins before the Norman Asturias left Poole in glorious sunshine. On the bridge we scanned Brownsea Island lagoon as we passed and saw several Brent Geese. In the limited time at sea before dusk we were limited to a handful of seabirds, but these did include the only Shag of the survey.

Cuviers BW Carol Farmer Wright 01
Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Photo: Carol Farmer Wright)

Rested, we were back on the bridge early on Sunday morning full of expectation with both Biscay 'hotspots' to traverse. Crossing the northern shelf things were a little slow, though a pod of Common Dolphins and a couple of further singletons were welcome. We saw several Great Skua, including birds parasitising several hundred gulls behind a fishing boat. In mid-Biscay we saw the best bird of the trip, a cracking Balearic Shearwater sat on the sea before lazily lifting off in front of the boat and drifting off west.

Risso's Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin (Photo: Carol Farmer Wright)

The southern part of Biscay proved to be very rewarding in cetacean terms. In deeper water no fewer than ten Cuvier's Beaked Whales in three pods were enjoyed, views being close enough to see the melon on a couple of occasions. As we moved into shallower water nearer the coast a small pod of four Risso's Dolphin was something of a bonus, and then two groups of Striped Dolphin enhanced the trip list including a couple engaged in typically exuberant acrobatics. Finally a single Pilot Whale heading north past us added a gloss to what had already been a very productive crossing for cetaceans, whilst a large group of Cormorants on apparent migration was a surprise.

Whilst the boat was docked in Santander we enjoyed another excellent meal in the customer restaurant before retiring to bed ahead of an early start. As on Saturday the going was slow initially as we headed through central Biscay.  The doldrums were quickly lifted however by three separate pods of Pilot Whales heading south. Carol saw a Willow Warbler briefly near the bridge, whilst seabirds included the first Sandwich Terns of the trip.

Rounding the northwest tip of France at Ile d'Ouessant we entered the English Channel and a prolonged quiet period, with sightings restricted almost solely to Gannets and, despite the calm conditions, a distinct lack of Harbour Porpoise. The lull came to a spectacular end as a very large pod of Common Dolphin passed by the boat, coming in to bowride briefly as they passed. Carol was having dinner at the time and was able to get many passengers onto them, some of these lucky people even managed to get pictures and were understandably thrilled. I was on the bridge and estimated 107+ animals passed by in a marvellous wildlife spectacle.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 12

Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Overall this was a most rewarding survey for a supposedly quiet month which will linger long in the memory. Thanks to the staff of LD Lines for making us so very welcome and supporting the work of Marinelife.

Stephen Dunstan and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines Network 'Norman Asturias' Poole-Santander 15-17 March 2014

Posted 28 March 2014

Adrian Shephard and Nick Adams; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Outward: wind WNW 4-1, mainly sunny, good visibility with glare at times
Return: wind NW 0-4, generally good visibility with some mist and fog

Summary of Species Recorded
Marine Mammals
Pilot Whale Globicephala melas 39
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 96
Striped Dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba 19
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 19
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 15
Small whale sp  2
Cetacean sp  1


Brent Goose Branta bernicla 52
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 732
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 17
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 14
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 42
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 129
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 10
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 26
Razorbill Alca torda 150
Guillemot Uria aalge 8
Auk sp. 21
Gull sp.  292

Terrestrial Birds during survey
Shoveler Anas clypeata 8
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 1
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 80
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 20
Alba Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Linnet Carduelis cannabina 7
Finch sp  3
Passerine   2
Small Wader sp  1
Duck sp  3

Birds in flight Poole Harbour
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 59
Gadwall Anas strepera 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 42
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10

We arrived in Poole and after a friendly greeting by the LD Lines ground staff, we headed aboard Norman Asturias and then up onto the bridge to meeting Captain Roberto Garibbo. As the ship departed, we got to work recording the birds in Poole harbour with highlights including several Mediterranean Gull, a Great Northern Diver and a Sandwich Tern.

Common Dolphin Adrian Shephard 06

Common Dolphin (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

We continued surveying until darkness fell, recording Common Gull plus a few Great Black-backed  and Herring Gull. We then headed down for a nice meal and a brief chat with a few of the passengers keen to know about our research work and what we might encounter on the crossing.

We were back on the bridge at 6.15am and started recording seabirds straight away, primarily Gannet and Great Black-backed Gull but as the day progressed, we noticed a northerly movement of Lesser Black-backed Gull heading across Biscay. Our first cetaceans arrived at breakfast as we started to cross into deeper waters with a group of Bottlenose Dolphin ahead of the ship performing graceful leaps as they passed close down the starboard side of the ship. Shortly after, a group of Pilot Whale surfaced just to port, followed by another group directly ahead of the ship, affording the passengers in the restaurant some amazing views.

Pilot Whale Adrian Shephard 04Pilot Whale (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

A small group of mother and calf Common Dolphin followed around 30 minutes later, each jumping in unison towards the bow of the ship. We had further sightings of Pilot Whale and Bottlenose Dolphin as we gradually progressed into the deeper waters. Seabird sightings were sporadic with occasional Gannet, the odd gull and a Great Skua making a welcome addition.

As we approached the canyons off northern Spain, the conditions calmed and we had great viewing conditions, however, cetaceans were elusive. Some white water, sun glinting off animal backs and a small blow proved frustrating but indicated a potential large beaked whale in the vicinity. The survey drew to a close as we headed into Santander for some tallying of sightings.

Some fog and mist was encountered during the return crossing but coupled with near mirror calm sea states which facilitated sightings of Bottlenose, Striped and Common Dolphin - the latter putting on an amazing performance for passengers as they came into bow-ride just prior to breakfast.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 06Gannet (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

Seabirds were fairly constant with numerous Gannet, Razorbill and Puffin as we headed into the shallower waters of the continental shelf. We picked up a handful of Common Gull as we progressed north and were surprised not to pick up more Harbour Porpoise in view of the flat calm seas. However, by the conclusion of the survey we had recorded fifteen, making five different marine mammal species and 189 individual cetaceans for the trip and twenty species of seabird.

A big thank you to all at LD Lines for making these surveys possible and Captain Garibbo and all the crew of Norman Asturias who were fascinated by the marine wildlife and keen to tell us about their sightings recently.

Adrian Shephard and Nick Adams; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines 'Norman Asturias' Poole-Santander 8-10 February 2014

Posted 23 February 2014

This survey had to be cancelled due to severe weather.

MARINElife Survey Report: LD Lines 'Norman Asturias' Poole-Santander 18-20 January 2014

Posted 26 January 2014

Peter Howlett and Cheryl Leaning; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Outward: wind NW3-6, mainly sunny, good visibility with glare at times
Return: wind NW 7-4, generally good visibility with some heavy showers

Summary of Species Recorded:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 15
Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus 1
Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus 1
Dolphin sp  1

Gannet Morus bassanus 89
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 16
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 126
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 910
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 8
Auk sp.    8
Gull sp.  550

There had been great disappointment within the surveyors at MARINElife when Brittany Ferries pulled out of the of the Poole-Santander route - our only route across Biscay. So you can imagine the excitement when LD Lines announced they were going to start operating and that they had generously agreed to support our work and allow us to survey from their ship. This would be the inaugural survey with LD Lines on this route.

At less than 300m, a fellow MARINElife surveyor was easily identifiable across the station car park, even without binoculars. We'd both travelled some distance that morning and were keen to head straight to the ferry terminal, pausing only to refuel on fish 'n' chips.

Port security and LD Lines' freight crew welcomed us and were introduced to Gary Andrews, the UK Operations Manager and our host for the next few days. We were also joined, on this trip, by David, a journalist and self-confessed ferry enthusiast keen to report on this new route. Boarding was quick and easy and included an escalator, a first for us, to transport us from the car deck up to reception where we were allocated comfortable spacious cabins at the front of the ship. Gary gave us a tour of the public areas and we settled ourselves down for departure. At this time of year it is too dark to survey from Poole so after a satisfying dinner, we bid one another goodnight.

Surveying Poole-Santander David Fairclough 01
Back surveying in Biscay (Photo: David Fairclough)

The next morning, we were able to enjoy breakfast before joining the bridge in time to see the sunrise as we crossed the northern edge of the shelf. Birds started to show almost immediately on the gentle breeze, with Kittiwake and Gannet the most frequent. Great Skua were also present in good numbers with three recorded within the first hour. Mediterranean and Lesser Black-Backed Gull and auks also added to the species list in a relatively short time.

A brief encounter with four Common Dolphin which were intent on bow-riding, just over half an hour into the survey suggested we were in for a very productive day. However, a further sighting of a solitary dolphin, probably Common, proved to be the last for quite a while as the wind steadily picked up. We'd almost given up hope of any further excitement after a very quiet afternoon crossing the abyssal plain when a distinctive blow was spotted dead ahead - a Sperm Whale! - sadly it managed to evade more prolonged contact despite close scrutiny. Just when we thought that might be it for the day, a large Fin Whale ventured across our path, passing close down the starboard side. We reluctantly brought the day to a close as fading light meant we were unlikely to see anything else which might be enjoying the canyons.

Gannet Peter Howlett 05
Gannet (Photo: Peter Howlett)

Monday morning was significantly fresher making for challenging work. Kittiwake and Gannet were still present, albeit in much reduced numbers, it was good to see a few winter plumaged Puffin along with the odd Guillemot. Three fishing vessels boosted the gull numbers significantly with Great Skua also regularly spotted.  Common Dolphin began to make appearances as we crossed the shelf, some again coming in close to bow-ride.

Biscay clouds Peter Howlett 01
A spectacular late afternoon in the Bay of Biscay (Photo: Peter Howlett)

We were in sight of land, but had not yet rounded Ouessant as we closed the survey and bid our farewell to the officers on the bridge.

We completed the data entry after indulging ourselves in the ship's restaurant then settled down to a final enjoyable evening with Gary and David. We were well rested by the time we arrived back in Poole. This route is going to be fantastic as the days get longer with the possibility of covering much of the Channel and the entire Biscay area from the shelf to Santander.

We are delighted to have received such a warm reception from Gary Andrews, Captain Roberto Garibbo and all the LD Lines staff and crew and look forward to a positive future for this route.

Peter Howlett and Cheryl Leaning; Research Surveyors for MARINElife